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Was Watch Dogs For PC Handicapped On Purpose? 215

Advocatus Diaboli writes: Many PC gamers were disappointed that Ubisoft's latest AAA game, Watch_Dogs, did not look as nice as when displayed at E3 in 2012. But this week a modder discovered that code to improve the game's graphics on the PC is still buried within the released game, and can be turned back on without difficulty or performance hits. Ubisoft has yet to answer whether (or why) their PC release was deliberately handicapped. Gaming commentator Total Biscuit has a video explaining the controversy.
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Was Watch Dogs For PC Handicapped On Purpose?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @05:42PM (#47266821)

    Nuff said.

    • I've been watching this; it looks like a cool game.

      I noticed the e3 trailer was completely different than the reviews, even on good video setups.

      I have learned long ago not to buy a game until you see what you're getting. :)

      Now that someone has found how to restore the original graphics, seeing how Ubisoft responds will pretty much determine their future, pretty much. :) (At least for me, anyway.)

      A C&D about now would really make my day, lol; I've come to hate those pricks.

      Hey, my two 7970's in crossfi

    • Nuff said.

      Well, you say that, but Heroes of Might and Magic VI was actually pretty fun.

      • It was, but that was a looong time ago...

      • by afidel ( 530433 )

        It might be but I'll never know until/unless it's released on GOG because I refuse to deal with DRM more restrictive than Steam, and I'm right in their target audience as I own every game in the series from the original Kings Bounty to King's Bounty: Warriors of the North, Ice & Fire. Ubisoft can go jump in a lake until they learn to treat their paying customers correctly.

        • Just wanted to say, King's Bounty : Dark Side is available from Steam. It's early access, but many people have played it from start to finish several times and it's mostly bug-free (at least any serious bug) at the moment. It's due to release next month if you'd rather not play the early access version.

          I've played it for a few hours and I can say, it's already much better than Warriors of the North. It's reminding me a lot of Crossworlds, which is a good thing.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @05:45PM (#47266847) Journal
    Why is this even a question? The PC version included the "Uplay" launcher/malware/crash utility.
  • Blur (Score:4, Informative)

    by BradleyUffner ( 103496 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @05:46PM (#47266861) Homepage

    Play the game for 5 minutes with the depth of field effect and you will see why that was disabled; the game is unplayable that way. As for the other stuff; no idea.

    • Re:Blur (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Travis Mansbridge ( 830557 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @06:02PM (#47267019)
      In any game, depth-of-field looks amazing for screenshots but in order to work the camera has to refocus on whatever is in the center of the screen, so focus can change rapidly and drastically as you swing your view around, and anything the player might be looking at that's not in the center is going to be out-of-focus. The only way to really pull it off would be something like eye-tracking to find what the player is actually looking at and bring that into focus. Or design a 2-D-ish game where all the action is guaranteed to happen at the same depth.
      • Re:Blur (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jeremy Erwin ( 2054 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @06:30PM (#47267269) Journal

        Depth of field is an artistic tool used by photographers to direct the viewer's gaze. It has a reputation for being a mark of a pro photographer because

        The larger the camera's format, the shallower the depth of field for a given aperture. Depth of field control is extremely difficult on a cell phone camera.
        More expensive pro lenses, such as the "Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens " ($2396) lens have wider apertures than a (sort of, kind of) similar consumer lens such as the "Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED AF-S DX" ($159)

        However. there are photographers, such as Ansel Adams who used "camera movements" to maximize depth of field, as well as photo journalists who consider deep depths of field to be an important tool for objectivity and for telling narratives.

        A pro photographer uses depth of field as a compositional element. A game's graphics engine would have to be programmed to use depth of field to direct the player's gaze to fit the narrative.. A constant shallowness is likely to interfere with game play.

        (Back in the old days, fog was used to obscure draw distance limitations. It sometimes looked decent, but in real life, piloting an aircraft through dense fog is harder than piloting through clear skies...)

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Cowclops ( 630818 )

          While its true that cameras with large sensors tend to have shallower depth of field, its actually a side effect of needing to use longer focal length lenses to get the same field of view. You might need 70mm on a 35mm camera to frame a subject for a portrait but only 12mm on a point and shoot to frame the same subject. Longer focal length means bigger actual lens aperture for the same f-stop, and thats what decreases depth of field.

          For example, a 35mm f/2 lens on a full frame camera will have the same dept

          • Hmm-- crop factor for a 2/3 inch sensor is 3.6, so a 35mm lens on a 2/3 would roughly be equivalent to 125 mm-- short telephoto, good for headshots from say 6-7 feet away.
            Using Depth of Field Master [dofmaster.com]
            an f/2/ 125mm lens, at 6 ft, has a depth of field of 0.08 ft. (Canon5D Mark III)
            an f/2 35 mm, lens, at 6 ft has a depth of field of 0.28 ft (Fujifilm X10, though it's actually limited to 28mm @ f/2.8)

            So if you want razor thin depth of field, best go with full frame or larger, assuming that the lenses are availa

          • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

            While its true that cameras with large sensors tend to have shallower depth of field, its actually a side effect of needing to use longer focal length lenses to get the same field of view. You might need 70mm on a 35mm camera to frame a subject for a portrait but only 12mm on a point and shoot to frame the same subject. Longer focal length means bigger actual lens aperture for the same f-stop, and thats what decreases depth of field.

            For example, a 35mm f/2 lens on a full frame camera will have the same depth of field as a 35mm f/2 lens on a 2/3" CCD point and shoot, but the 35mm on a full frame camera is going to be a standard angle and 35mm on the point and shoot is going to be considerable telephoto.

            People generally don't use the same range of focal lengths on full frame cameras as they do on tiny sensor point and shoots (or cell phones) so thats why it seems like its easier to achieve the shallower depth of field with a bigger imager.

            This is not quite true. The larger formats come with larger acceptable circles of confusion [wikipedia.org] as well, since it is expected they will be enlarged less. The basic premise is correct, but it's not straight linear. A 50 mm lens at f/1.4 has less effective depth of field on a 14 MP crop sensor than it does on a 14 MP full-frame sensor, just because the actual sensing elements are smaller.

      • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

        Personally, the first thing I usually adjust in game graphics after installation and selecting the correct resolution is turning off depth of field and motion blur.

        Both make screenshots look nice and make actual gameplay look utterly terrible imho.

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        depth of field in games is used for the same shit as in movies - to enable shit backgrounds from ruining your screenshots.

        all and all, it's shit, it's used for forcing your eyes to look at one point. in cutscenes not so bad(but still a trick to enable crap backgrounds). in gameplay? fucking appalling.

        (for example of shit backgrounds hide trick dof, dragon age II).

    • Why would anyone want to waste processing power simulating the physical limitations of their eyes?

      You may as well render lens flare.

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        It's not just eyes, they also try and replicate the limitations of cameras; lens flare, the Bokeh effect, motion blur, depth-of-field. If a title doesn't have those effects, it's not keeping up to date with everyone else.

        Even with the Ultra 64, the Quake version gave you the choice of enabling/disabling mip-mapping. For a while mip-mapping looks cool because everything looks less pixelly. Then when you switch it off, everything looked better because it was sharper.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        You may as well render lens flare.

        Tell that to J. J. Abrams. I tried cleaning my glasses when I went to see Star Trek but it didn't make it any better.

        Of course, I don't think that removing the lens flare would have helped much in that case regardless...

      • by makapuf ( 412290 )

        In cgi, what you spend your time doing is rendering limitations to make it look more "real". Lens flare, dirt, vignette, glare , scratches, de focus, even color grading are artifacts or wear out that make it so more real than clean, 100% sharp plastic images.
        We're seeing some elements through non neutral media and are accustomed to this filter. Look at how 100fps movies look like cheap video first. It takes time to change your habits. And if reality isn't a concern ... Well just use flash games.

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Meh adjust the DoF to how you like it, it's not hard and with the latest mod it's trivial to do. But other things like RT shadows, object reflections, higher density of pedestrians on the street? Hell even the particle effects for the water looks amazing with all these settings turned on. I'm not one for conspiracy theories, hell Totalbiscut isn't either but even he hinted in his latest video on it that there's a possibility that PC settings were reduced as to not make the "next gen" aka 2.5-3 year old

  • by Payden K. Pringle ( 3483599 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @05:46PM (#47266865)

    Apparently they will do the same to Far Cry 4, specifically this article from Forbes about that subject. [forbes.com]

    Oh, and that update on Alex Hutchinson's Twitter response? Bollocks.

    • I really hope not. Maybe now that this story is making the rounds, they will be less inclined to screw over PC gamers. If they don't handle this correctly before release, it will probably hurt PC sales.
  • DLC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @05:47PM (#47266881)

    They were probably planning to charge players $50 to activate this 'DLC'.

    • by Grog6 ( 85859 )

      This is probably exactly right; $9.95-$49.95 for a settings tweak.

      I'm Happy I haven't bought this yet; I'll have to see how this goes. :)

    • by Jahoda ( 2715225 )
      "Watch_Dogs Remastered Gold Edition"
  • Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

    by asmkm22 ( 1902712 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @05:48PM (#47266891)
    But not for any nefarious reasons. The depth of field effect, in particular, messes with the gameplay in unexpected ways. Stuff like not being able to find a camera easily because it's more than 20 feet away and blurred out. Or when you're in a gunfight and everyone not right next to you are blurred out. That kind of thing. It's great for screenshots, and very tightly-controlled situations, but I wasn't impressed with how it felt in terms of gameplay.
    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Maybe they left it in there in case anyone had gotten to market a VR headset with proper eye tracking built by the time the game was released, so that depth of field would follow what the eye was looking at rather than where the center of the screen is pointed. But, that could be me being rather more charitable than they deserve.
    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      The depth of field has been a problem with the game since release. Things popping in and out, blurry distances. Check out TB's original review of the game; the game is simply bad (it's Ubisoft after all), there are no other quality differences between these higher settings and the original settings

  • All through the almost 2 solid years of following the game, the developers made it clear they intended ALL game features to be consistent across platforms; in fact, one of the last videos they released prior to the game hitting the market was to explain that the only real difference between versions would be graphics quality and population density (ie, the new consoles would have more peds/cars drawn in one place then the previous gen consoles).

    Now, I haven't played it on anything but PS3, but one feature f

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      Not much of a spoiler. Even the most cursory reviews of the title clear state that plot is throw away material.

  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @05:51PM (#47266927)

    While the unlocked graphics style is certainly better for screenshots, it suffers the problem of highlighting close things, while highly blurring anything at a distance. While more 'realistic', if I were testing the game, I'd definitely suggest disabling this 'feature' by default, as it really can hamper gameplay and discovery. Skyrim EMB mods frequently enter into this territory, and it can be troublesome there too.

    The headlight effects are pretty cool though.

    The worst middle-finger-to-the-audience has to be the mouse handling though - it's not just mouse smoothing or mouse acceleration, but a particularly nasty form of negative acceleration from capping out the maximum allowed mouse speed, presumably to match controller max speeds. This limitation is a pain in the ass if you're expecting any kind of free or accurate mouse control. I cannot imagine any tester not making this a 'show stopper' bug - it's really, REALLY bad from what I've heard/seen/tried, and can't be fixed so far (lots of half-fixes out there though).

    Ryan Fenton

    • You can disable depth of field with the new mods.

    • What about things like bloom and shadows? Those hardly make the game unplayable. Not to mention the fact that some of the people who ripped code out of the game found comments like "PC only -- Who cares?" and whatnot.
    • Maybe they limited mouse speed to make it more realistic. People don't have unlimited speed, why should your character?

      • by Nahor ( 41537 )

        And your character can kill people with mostly impunity, how come?

        We don't want a "realistic" game, there is "real life" for that! "Realistic" should only go so far as to improve the game, not hinder it.

        • I know, you should totally be able to shoot someone in the head from 1000 metres with a sniper rile immediately after jumping off a 5 metre tall roof that effectively half killed you and popping your head up from behind a wooden box that is some how magically bullet proof.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        "People don't have unlimited speed,"

        My real name is Barry Allen and I disagree with that statement you insensitive clod!

      • by jxander ( 2605655 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @06:40PM (#47267349)

        The mouse just used to point and look.

        Meatspace analogy time: Look at something on your right. Now look at something on your left. Pretty quick maneuver. Imagine being limited to 30 degrees of rotation per second, making that 180 degree change of direction (from your left to your right) a 6 second operation.

        • It's not just moving your head though, it's aiming your rifle too.

          • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
            Pointing, not aiming. Aiming might take a little bit more time... pointing your rifle from one side to the other is done very quickly... then aiming it at a target takes a little longer. I don't have a rifle, but in movies and news footage, I see soldiers and SWAT team members often going at least 60 degrees left and right, if not more, in the blink of an eye.
    • While the unlocked graphics style is certainly better for screenshots, it suffers the problem of highlighting close things, while highly blurring anything at a distance. While more 'realistic', if I were testing the game, I'd definitely suggest disabling this 'feature' by default, as it really can hamper gameplay and discovery.

      That's pointed out in the end of Total Biscuit's video. There's still stuff to enable/bring back, and stuff to adjust. He plainly says that the depth of view effect might be too much in this version of the "mod".

    • They capped total mouse frame movements to the 30 FPS of the console version. This is just lazy porting, again.

  • Someone said "Make our gaming console (which is basically a mid-spec gaming PC) look better than a PC."

  • So a game that already runs like shit on PC had some graphics settings disabled on PC. How is this even a question? Perhaps those settings caused everyone with an ATI BLAHBLAH card to have random crashes and they didn't want to bother fixing it?

    And when did we start believing trailers video quality?

    • If you read some of the comments it seems enabling the graphics also enhances performance at the same time. The theory is that the decision to castrate the PC version was perhaps made at the last minute and they didn't have enough time to test and optimize the crap version.
      Disclaimer: this is second hand info as I do not own the game.
  • Please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hamsterdan ( 815291 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @06:30PM (#47267257)

    Graphics? Sound? HDR?

    What about *gameplay* (what makes a game worth playing)

    Half-Life, DooM, Quake, Quake2, X-Wing series, even some games on my C64. I'm replaying Tie Fighter on an old Ppro200 with an Ensoniq Soundscape Elite soundcard, the gameplay is amazing, the story too. Graphics are crap compared to today's games, but the iMuse music is one of the things that make that game almost perfect.

    Dozens of hours of gameplay. (unlike modern games)

    • Re:Please (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jxander ( 2605655 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @06:53PM (#47267487)

      Check out Total Biscuit's YouTube Channel "WTF is..."

      He does first impressions and mainly focuses on smaller indy titles (not exclusively, but primarily) Smaller budget games can't just throw "SUPER MEGA REALISTIC AMAZING POLYGRAPHICS" and have to rely on creativity, story and gameplay instead.

    • by Grog6 ( 85859 )

      I played Q2:Ground Zero for ~6 hours on my lan last weekend; It's still the best for gameplay. :)

      We do a "give all" at the start, and one per each kill you make; It keeps the game moving. :)

      And I have my own skins, that I made; something not seen since UT2003.

      The "Catholic Schoolgirl" bot in UT2k3 was the best programming I've seen, lol.

    • Graphics are certainly not the *key* point for a good game, but saying that they are not relevant would be crazy.
      From your examples, Half-Life was great, but the graphical difference from HL1 to HL2 certainly contributed to improve the experience. There's nothing saying that we can have either good gameplay XOR good graphics. Both at the same time are nice too.
    • It's an Ubisoft game. Ubisoft Game: The Review [on.net] tells you all you need to know:

      By now weâ(TM)ve all heard of Ubisoft Game, and if you havenâ(TM)t, then youâ(TM)ve been living under a rock. Ubisoft Game is the latest in a long line of titles from Ubisoft, and with a bigger budget than ever before and no less than 75 of Ubisoftâ(TM)s 193 global studios working on it, thereâ(TM)s no doubt that this yearâ(TM)s Ubisoft Game is going to be the big one.


      Ubisoft Game is the story of Main Character, a gruff or sassy white man who is really good at parkour, killing, and killing while doing parkour. One of the most iconic features of Main Character is the way he dresses â" Main Characterâ(TM)s sense of style and flair really comes across in his tailored outfit, which makes him look distinctive and features a number of clear symbols that can be easily used in marketing and merchandising.

      The game takes place in a big open world, with lots of people and maybe even animals living in it. That sounds like it should be a paradise, but itâ(TM)s not â" a Bad Thing has happened and Main Character is right in the thick of it. Or maybe heâ(TM)s the only one who can stop it? The story in Ubisoft Game is a bit uncompelling, but thatâ(TM)s okay, because thereâ(TM)s just so much to see and do.

  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @07:08PM (#47267621) Journal

    I was really looking forward to the game and pre-ordered it for PC. My experience has been horrible. I am running an i7-960 (8 cores, 3.20ghz), 12GB of RAM and 2 GeForce 660s in SLI (4GB of total video RAM). I have a dedicated OS drive, a dedicated games drive and a dedicated pagefile drive. By way of background, I run ~1400VMs for a living. The VMs support a number of SaaS applications that are sensitive to transaction latency. I tune applications for performance for a living.

    The game runs like crap on my PC, even on medium settings. It reads files from all over the place. It pulls textures out of the temp directory. It pulls data files out of the game directory. Even with over 4GB of FREE (not Available) RAM, it still manages to make the system do a steady 2MB/s of paging.

    The game play is horrible. The driving is clunky. The interface scheme was obviously designed for a game pad. The multi-player is embarassing. The net code is crap. With 6 people, there were serious rubber banding issues. That was with a very small slice of the map. It is not like they had to render the entire thing. In a good 50% of the multi-player games I was in, there was at least one invulnerable person. That leads me to believe that the code is obviously pretty easy to exploit.

    The game concept was a good one, but the execution was horrible. I have learned my lesson. In this day and age, everything is in beta. Developers are okay with releasing incomplete products and patching them later. I spent my youth couriering warez and getting a free ride. Now that I can afford games, I have been willingly purchasing them to support the studios. I cannot do it anymore. They just release crap products. They are not even worth pirating.

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      Try the hack mentioned in the story. Among other things, many have reported significant performance improvement.

      It seems that the decision to gimp the PC version came at the last minute and they didn't have enough time to properly optimized the gimped version.

      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )


        if they can not produce a competent game without hacks to make it playable they do not want your money

        its rather simple, ubisoft is a shit company

    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      re pagefile disk

      I'm curious...

      I assume windows 7 x64?

      What are you using as the disk?
      How much of an impact does it make, and in what circumstances?
      Have you ever benchmarked it vs having it on the OS drive, I assumed SSD there as well?

      • by dave562 ( 969951 )

        Yes, Win7 x64 Professional. I am using a Samsung 840 (128GB) for the pagefile disk. I have been putting pagefile.sys (and TEMP, TMP) on a separate disk since NT 4.0. I have not run any benchmarks on Windows 7 to see what the improvement is like.

        If you are curious about the impact of the pagefile on the OS drive, I would look at disk queue depth and file latency. As long as your queue depth isn't over 2 and your file latency stays in 5-10ms range, you should be fine.

        Before I went SSD on the data drive, I

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      the last ubisoft game you should have bought was years ago when they were too busy treating paying customers like theives for sub par garbage and charging to fix it guised as DLC

      but least you pulled your head out of your ass now

  • I'm rather enjoyed the story line, but the last mission is hard, they throw all the cops at you.

    But does this game have replay value like gta5? It might, but I doubt I will continuing playing after a few more online skirmishes and finish this last mission.
    So was the game worth 60 dollars? I have over 30 hours of gameplay for 60 bux, does seem expensive to me but it was enjoyable.

  • Problem solved! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jahoda ( 2715225 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @07:36PM (#47267865) Homepage
    I just buy all of their games once a year for $2.99 on Steam and then never play them.
    • I just buy all of their games once a year for $2.99 on Steam and then never play them.

      Me too, lorem ipsum, undoing mods.

  • Maybe they noticed too late that they could sell "enhanced graphics" as a DLC?

  • Halo syndrome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @08:42PM (#47268351) Homepage

    They were probably paid lots of money by a certain monopolist to cripple the PC version so as to not make their XBox version look so bad in side-by-side comparisons. The lowest common denominator wins again.

    Title explanation: Recall that Halo for PC was never released. A pity because it looked quite good. What eventually came out on the PC was a low-quality port of the XBox version.

  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @09:53PM (#47268761)

    1.It could have been done because the stuff they disabled wasn't finished.
    2.It could have been done because the stuff they disabled wasn't properly tested across all the hardware configurations in their QA matrix. (or it didn't work right on all their hardware configs)
    3.It could have been done because it affected how the game played in some way (i.e. balance)
    or 4.It could have been done because it was unstable or crashing or had other known issues.

  • by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @01:10AM (#47269557)

    They've been dumbing down the gameplay on real games for years to make things easier the konsole kiddies. Look at Deus Ex: HR or the Xcom: EU vs. their namesakes for fine examples. It doesn't surprise me a bit that they'd cripple the graphics too. Can't let the children get jealous that someone else has something better, after all.

  • by janoc ( 699997 ) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @04:38AM (#47270099)

    How does this surprise anyone? After Ubisoft CEO calling PC users "pirates" (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/09/05/ubisoft-drm-piracy-interview/), always-on DRM required on PC, Ubisoft changing focus to consoles because of piracy (http://www.tomshardware.com/news/ubisoft-guillemot-E3-games-piracy,6152.html) and more and more of similar vibe coming out of the Montreal's company over the recent years. They don't give a crap about PC and ideally they wouldn't publish for it all if they could, as it is only an extra expense and liability for their piracy obsessed CEO.

    They are obviously crippling their PC titles to both push people away from the platform towards the consoles and to not undermine the sales of their console versions at the same time, because PC can outperform the consoles without too much hassle. If the PC version looked significantly better, the console players would cry foul, having paid the same money but getting inferior product. If everything looks like the same crap, players will not think about it twice.

    Any PC gamer still buying Ubisoft's stuff is a masochist.

  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:01AM (#47270483) Journal

    http://forums.guru3d.com/showt... [guru3d.com]

    Surprised no one posted it.

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.